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Pileated Woodpeckers – Maniacs of the Woods?

December 26, 2012
Pileated Woodpecker Male feeding a fledgling male, probably his son.

Pileated Woodpecker Male feeding a fledgling male, probably his son.

Pileated Woodpeckers could be called the “maniacs of the woods” because of their loud call – it really does sound like the laughter of a movie maniac. I was lucky this summer because I found an adult male being followed by a fledgling male. The young male would watch the older bird intently and cautiously approach and poke into the hole that the adult male was excavating. Occasionally the male would move to avoid the youngster, but he finally ended up feeding the persistent fledgling.

The woodlot behind my home has a large number of ant colonies living in trees, mostly cedar trees. The trees don’t seem to suffer because the ants inhabit the dead wood at the center of the tree.  Pileated Woodpeckers excavate large, squarish oblong holes in the trunk of the cedar to get at the ants. The birds revisit the same hole as long as they find a meal. It seems to take about 3 or so years for the tree to close the excavation once the bird gives up on the excavation.  The two birds in the photos I included here were excavating a dead standing aspen tree.   Woodpeckers have an amazing long and barbed tongue that they use to poke around in the excavations for insects.  They can also do considerable damage to homes with cedar siding.  They appear to be drilling into the siding to find the “cedar bugs” (large stink bugs) that seek shelter in homes and the cracks of wooden siding on homes.

Pileated Woodpeckers are another bird that adds colour to winter.  I sometimes get to see them at my feeder.  It is a very special moment when one of these large colourful birds turns up outside my window.

getting feeding tips from his father

getting feeding tips from his father

A Fledgling Pileated Woodpecker searching for insects in his father's excavation. He is using his long barbed tongue to find food.

A Fledgling Pileated Woodpecker searching for insects in his father’s excavation. He is using his long barbed tongue to find food.

Female Pileated Woodpecker

Female Pileated Woodpecker

Male Pileated Woodpecker

Male Pileated Woodpecker

All photos and writing on this blog copyright J.A. Siderius

One Comment
  1. Nice shots! I love the Pileated Woodpeckers, they are cool and huge. My son calls them a flying chicken because they are so large.

    I finally got a good shot of one in our yard this week, check it out.

    Love the series of shots and your site.

    Michael
    Pileated Woodpeckers

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